This time of year, leave the boat behind when fishing the Gulf Coast

Posted Saturday, Mar. 22, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

There are limited reports of redfish along the Gulf Coast, but black drum, sheepshead and speckled trout are beginning to show up in the bays and backwaters.

Gulf Coast fishermen have been suffering the same conditions as their inland, freshwater cousins: the water is cold and the wind even colder. The occasionally warming trends have only dangled the carrot, and then yanked it back with another unseasonable freeze.

Now, hopefully, that erratic cycle is over. With spring beginning to show its balmy promise all over the state, fishermen are packing their tackle and heading for saltwater. It is still a gamble with March winds — even warm ones — threatening to put an uncomfortable chop on even the shallowest of waters. But the safest way to deal with the off chance of unfriendly whitecaps is to simply leave the boat behind.

There are plenty of good fishing spots on the coast that don’t use loading ramps, fuel pumps or create dangerous wakes. Among the best I’ve found are in the Fulton-Rockport area, north, away from more heavily traveled Port Aransas routes.

One of the top spots is the Copano Fishing Pier, an expansive two-lane highway that has been chopped off in the middle and made into two long fishing piers.

A new, higher roadway that is actually Texas 35 parallels the old road. The Copano pier was built as a highway back in the 1930s and had a drawbridge in the middle. Thirty years later, the new causeway was constructed.

The old drawbridge was removed and now there is 2,500-foot pier on the south side of the bay and 6,190 feet on the north. There are bait and tackle shops on both sides of the pier, and for those who have all the necessary niceties for pier fishing, you can even rent carts to haul it all with.

The Copano pier is administered by the Aransas County Navigational District.

Just a little to the north and east of Copano Bay is another great spot to fish without a boat. It is the state’s Goose Island State Park, run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Goose Island is a stunningly beautiful park that isn’t exactly a hidden gem among state parks, but it is woefully underused given its offerings.

This park isn’t for swimming. It just isn’t a good place for it. The water is littered with oyster reefs, mud flats and marsh grasses; in other words, great places for fishing. You can park your RV, or stake out your tent right along the concrete bulkhead at the water’s edge or you can wade in the tall grasses and slews behind the open bay.

The park has a well-lighted pier that reaches far out into the water.

If you have to get on the water, Goose Island is a perfect place to paddle a kayak.

One of the advantages of fishing the piers or wading the nearby shores is that you can do so with the same tackle you might use for sandies, blacks or crappie.

The bait might differ a little, but the same rod and reel can be used.

I checked last week with both Copano and the state park and they told me black drum and specs were doing fairly well. Copano was also doing well with sheepshead and gafftop.

For those who haven’t cast their lines in saltwater, the gafftop is a catfish. But so too is the hardhead. Both look just like a catfish, though the gafftop has a tall dorsal fin that looks like a sail. Actually, the fish is officially called a gafftopsail, but most people drop the sail part.

There is a lifelong argument about eating the gafftop. Some say it tastes just like a freshwater catfish; some say take the hook out and throw the fish back.

There is no argument that I know of about the hardheads; everyone agrees they are inedible. Both fish are slimy to the touch, and if you prick yourself on their spiny fins, it will hurt.

As far as bait is concerned, you can always go with artificial, but when in doubt use shrimp. Just about everything you might want to catch out of the ocean eats shrimp.

And be aware, especially on the piers, you can hook up with a shark. Some people believe that sharks don’t populate the bays, that they stay in the open gulf. That’s not true; ask any of your fishing neighbors along the pier. I’m betting more than one will have a shark story for you.

Fishing without a boat on the coast can also include jetties and the gulf surf, but in my estimation, those styles take a little more preparation.

Jetties can be great fun, but if you have the kids along, they can also be troublesome. The water is deep and the rocks slippery and the tackle is different.

The surf presents another set of problems, especially with tackle. It takes a lot of weight and a long, long pole to cast far enough out to do any good. And, you truly never know what you’re about to hook into.

College spring breaks are staggered throughout the remainder of the month and they make it a tough time to try to fish on the beaches and in the surf.

You don’t need a boat, but you’ll need a good four-wheel-drive vehicle to get you far enough down the beach to avoid the crowds.

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
Chicago «109Final | Box
Boston102
Golden State 11/28 7:00 PM ET
Charlotte TV: CSN-BA, SPSO
New Orleans 11/28 7:30 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FSN-NO, SPSO
Milwaukee 11/28 7:30 PM ET
Detroit TV: FSN-WI, FSN-DET
Dallas 11/28 7:30 PM ET
Toronto TV: FSN-SW, TSN2
LA Clippers 11/28 8:00 PM ET
Houston TV: NBA TV, FSN-PT, ROOT-SW
Orlando 11/28 8:00 PM ET
Indiana TV: FSN-FL, FSN-IN
New York 11/28 8:00 PM ET
Oklahoma City TV: MSG, FSN-OK
Sacramento 11/28 8:30 PM ET
San Antonio TV: CSN-CA, FSN-SW
Phoenix 11/28 9:00 PM ET
Denver TV: FSN-AZ, Altitude
Memphis 11/28 10:00 PM ET
Portland TV: SPSO, CSN-NW
Minnesota 11/28 10:30 PM ET
LA Lakers TV: FSN-N, TWC SN
Full Scoreboard
Week 13Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Chicago17Final | Box
Detroit «34Gridiron Replay
Philadelphia «33Final | Box
Dallas10Gridiron Replay
Seattle «19Final | Box
San Francisco3Gridiron Replay
Sunday
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: FOX
NY Giants 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: FOX
Carolina 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
New Orleans 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FOX
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: CBS
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: CBS
Arizona 4:05 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
New England 4:25 PM ET
Green Bay TV: CBS
Denver 8:30 PM ET
Kansas City TV: NBC
Monday
Miami 8:30 PM ET
NY Jets TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
NY Rangers «3Final | Box
Philadelphia0
Chicago32nd Prd 9:00 | Box
Anaheim1TV: NHLN, SN, WGN, FSN-PT
NY Islanders01st Prd 15:09 | Box
Washington0TV: MSG, CSN-DC
Winnipeg 11/28 7:00 PM ET
Boston TV: TVA Sports 2, TSN3, NESN
Montreal 11/28 7:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: RDS, MSG-BUF
Detroit 11/28 7:00 PM ET
New Jersey TV: FSN-DET, MSG+
Carolina 11/28 7:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: NHLN, FSN-CAR, ROOT-PIT
Vancouver 11/28 7:00 PM ET
Columbus TV: SN-PAC, FSN-OH
Ottawa 11/28 7:30 PM ET
Florida TV: RDS2, TSN5, FSN-FL
Edmonton 11/28 8:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: SN-W, FSN-MW
Minnesota 11/28 8:30 PM ET
Dallas TV: FSN-N+, FSN-SW+
Full Scoreboard